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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 06-27-14, 01:41 PM   #26
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With acknowledgement to Roody about staying on topic, I think that at least for me, going car free involved more of a lifestyle change than just changing my mode of transportation. When I decided to give up the car, I moved to a location where I was much closer to work, grocery store etc, decreasing my need for transportation. With the ease of driving, I would often drive 10-20 miles to go out to dinner or meet friends etc, now I consider those things more carefully. There are non-economic costs that I have incurred by not having a car. When a group of us go out for lunch, I end up bumming a ride rather than driving myself. When I went car free I did not just substitute a bike for a car and continue with everything else the same, car-free had a more broad reaching effect which resulted in my requiring less transportation.

The original question explicitly said 'cash expenses', but for me, many of the changes were big changes, with relatively small cash impacts.
You're overthinking this. It's a simple question: How much do you spend on transportation that doesn't involve a car? Not what effects did being carfree have on your quality of life. For me, the answer when I was carfree is:

$50 for bikes (a "new" used bike every three or four years)
$200 for bike parts and service
$2340 interurban bus (13 round trips of 400 miles to visit ailing parents)
$60 taxis
$300 bus

That's a total of $2,950 per year, for well over 10,000 miles of travel.
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Old 06-27-14, 03:02 PM   #27
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I'm not car free, nor car light. In 2013 I spent $955 on bicycling related expenses. More than half of that was a new drivetrain for my Fargo. The chain had worn out after a little over 4,000 miles, and I went to a different crank so that I could fit a smaller granny gear than the original FSA crank would allow. I'm not sure where the rest of it went, though I could log into Mint.com and find out. I know I got my Brooks B17 and a new Schwalbe Supreme. I haven't needed the new tire yet. Do those things ever wear out? I rode about 2,000 miles last year. They are leveraged in a way, as 20 miles of bicycle riding take the place of the expense of driving 100 miles, so the bicycling saved me roughly 10,000 miles of driving. My bus pass is paid for by my employer.

Just for contrast (and since it's on the same Spending sheet) I spent $2,543 for gas for my pickup and motorcycle, and over $4800 for parts. The parts bill is inflated as I'm restoring two vehicles; I should make a separate category for that.
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Old 06-27-14, 03:21 PM   #28
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Good point. How to quantify the "cost" of foregoing previously enjoyed activities such as weekend family outings, dining out or leisurely visiting friends, relatives and entertainment at more distant locations?
Yep, aka "opportunity cost" which we tend to disregard in this kind of accounting bull-session. But these opportunities missed can have their own associated costs, depending on the activities you like, so it quickly becomes an individualized type of thing. That's why I'm inclined to dismiss it, and just estimate that we'll find "something else" enjoyable to do, net sum zero. What I've found, car-free or car-light, is that what I really lose is spontaneity. Having to rent a car, which means scheduling and planning ahead. It's not clear how to put a price on that.

Actual "car-light costs": tires, chains, lube, cassettes, and whatever extra I eat for the five or six hundred calories I burn daily commuting. It's pretty much trivial compared to what I spend on cycling, just because I want to but not strictly justifiable for transportation. If we need a number my costs come to about 4-8 cents per commuting mile.

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Old 06-27-14, 04:52 PM   #29
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Yep, aka "opportunity cost" which we tend to disregard in this kind of accounting bull-session. But these opportunities missed can have their own associated costs, depending on the activities you like, so it quickly becomes an individualized type of thing. That's why I'm inclined to dismiss it, and just estimate that we'll find "something else" enjoyable to do, net sum zero. What I've found, car-free or car-light, is that what I really lose is spontaneity. Having to rent a car, which means scheduling and planning ahead. It's not clear how to put a price on that.

Actual "car-light costs": tires, chains, lube, cassettes, and whatever extra I eat for the five or six hundred calories I burn daily commuting. It's pretty much trivial compared to what I spend on cycling, just because I want to but not strictly justifiable for transportation. If we need a number my costs come to about 4-8 cents per commuting mile.
I agree that opportunity costs are highly subjective and varied. What I'm hoping for here is an informational thread about the actual costs of cycling and public transit. The purpose is to inform people who are thinking about using cars less. They can figure the opportunity costs for their own situation.
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Old 06-27-14, 07:30 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
I agree that opportunity costs are highly subjective and varied. What I'm hoping for here is an informational thread about the actual costs of cycling and public transit. The purpose is to inform people who are thinking about using cars less. They can figure the opportunity costs for their own situation.
Problem with saying actual costs of cycling and public transit only, is that maybe it's not the total actual costs of not having a car... "opportunity costs" are there, even if you don't want to count them trying to keep only the positives of not owning a car $ insight ... JMO
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Old 06-27-14, 07:39 PM   #31
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What I'm hoping for here is an informational thread about the actual costs of cycling and public transit. The purpose is to inform people who are thinking about using cars less. They can figure the opportunity costs for their own situation.
Ok, let me take another swing at this. I'm now a 2 month genius on being car light I've kept an accurate record of how long components last for the last 4 years and 9,500 miles of riding my road bike and FG/SS. I've turned my Wabi FG/SS into my commuter so here goes:

Please forgive the formatting. Geez. There's 4 columns
Item
Life: expected life span
Cost: what I paid new
Cost per mile: This is based on 2200 miles of commuting per year

Miles per year 2200
Item Life Cost Cost per mile
Bike 10 525 0.024
Fenders 10 60 0.003
Saddle 6 45 0.003
Tires 1.5 124 0.038
Chain/Tubes 1.5 50 0.015
Jacket 4 90 0.010
Shorts/Pants 4 200 0.023
Pedals 6 60 0.005
Shoes 4 80 0.009
Wheels 5 225 0.020

Cost per mile 0.15

Cost per year $329.5

Initial investment $1459

I buy new and what I consider nice stuff when it comes to cycling. Obviously this could be done for much less.

As an example: I took the cost of my Wabi Classic and deducted the cost of a new set of wheels. I don't think I'll get 10 years out of the wheels so they needed to be a separate line item.

Tires are the most expensive item for me. I like Conti 4000 S IIs @ $124/set LBS prices. You could save quite a bit on cheaper tires and/or Internet shopping. I buy at my LBS so it is what it is. I also get more than 1.5 years @ 2200 miles per year out of a set. My history is more like 5K on a set. However I suspect I'll eventually cut one down early so there's money in the above for that.

Lights would have to be added. I've spent $130 on lights, I've no clue how long they will last so I've left that out.
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Old 06-27-14, 07:42 PM   #32
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Unfortunately, I have nothing to contribute to this discussion. I have no precise idea of what I spend on bicycles.

My problem is that I would rather be out riding than sitting at home reckoning costs!!
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Old 06-27-14, 08:05 PM   #33
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How many people in this thread are actually car free?

As for my expenses so far this month:

I've spent approximately 100RMB for public transportation.

Cycling expenses are a bit high this month.

400RMB on a secondhand bike for grocery runs
600RMB on tires and tubes
300RMB on cycling related clothing

Total cost: 1400RMB = $225USD

Edit:
I forgot to add distance:

500km cycling
800km company shuttle bus
200km? by public transportation

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Old 06-27-14, 08:29 PM   #34
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Unfortunately, I have nothing to contribute to this discussion. I have no precise idea of what I spend on bicycles.

My problem is that I would rather be out riding than sitting at home reckoning costs!!
Gerv, that's not a problem, that's a good thing!

Thankfully, now I feel the same way. But in interest of this thread, I'll try to throw some numbers out there. With the caveat that I am NOT car free, or even car light compared to some of the folks here; but I'm a heck of a lot car lighter than I used to be.

Bus Pass - about $50/month. My employer generously subsidizes the majority of that cost. If I had to pay the whole thing, it would be well over $100.

Tires - $22 I go through about one set of nashbar city tires a year.

Tubes - $15 as a guess

Chains - $20 - $30 I go through maybe 2 per year.


Other stuff is harder to quantify. My performance pedals just gave out - $34 to replace. But they are probably 10 years old. So $3.40 a year for these pedals??

I bought a winter bike last fall for $100, added fenders for $30. Both should last many years.

I bought studded tires two years ago - $100. These should last many years as well.

I'm a sucker for Nashbar's free shipping; I picked up 3 new aerolite wheelsets in the last two years - $240 total.

I've spent maybe $50 on merino wool sweaters. Also spent a total of $50 on new sorel boots, $15 for chemical toe warmers, $15 for aerolite insoles.

And lights!!! I almost forgot. $50 for various costco flashlights, $80 for a good jetbeam flashlight, $30 on a planet bike super flash turbo, $25 for a couple crappier planet bike blinkies. I also got a $110 Urban light and Motion light for my birthday, and found a Knog USB rechargable rear blinkie - did not actually cost ME anything, but they cost SOMEONE! I've actually spent more on lights, but that is sort of a separate hobby altogether!

The above expenses are almost exclusively commuting expenses. I spend additional amounts on my road bike, my mountain bike, and my classic cruisers.


Add it all up - and it is still pocket change compared to the cost of owning and driving a car.

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Old 06-27-14, 08:34 PM   #35
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Ok, let me take another swing at this. I'm now a 2 month genius on being car light I've kept an accurate record of how long components last for the last 4 years and 9,500 miles of riding my road bike and FG/SS. I've turned my Wabi FG/SS into my commuter so here goes:

Please forgive the formatting. Geez. There's 4 columns
Item
Life: expected life span
Cost: what I paid new
Cost per mile: This is based on 2200 miles of commuting per year

Miles per year 2200
Item Life Cost Cost per mile
Bike 10 525 0.024
Fenders 10 60 0.003
Saddle 6 45 0.003
Tires 1.5 124 0.038
Chain/Tubes 1.5 50 0.015
Jacket 4 90 0.010
Shorts/Pants 4 200 0.023
Pedals 6 60 0.005
Shoes 4 80 0.009
Wheels 5 225 0.020

Cost per mile 0.15

Cost per year $329.5

Initial investment $1459

I buy new and what I consider nice stuff when it comes to cycling. Obviously this could be done for much less.

As an example: I took the cost of my Wabi Classic and deducted the cost of a new set of wheels. I don't think I'll get 10 years out of the wheels so they needed to be a separate line item.

Tires are the most expensive item for me. I like Conti 4000 S IIs @ $124/set LBS prices. You could save quite a bit on cheaper tires and/or Internet shopping. I buy at my LBS so it is what it is. I also get more than 1.5 years @ 2200 miles per year out of a set. My history is more like 5K on a set. However I suspect I'll eventually cut one down early so there's money in the above for that.

Lights would have to be added. I've spent $130 on lights, I've no clue how long they will last so I've left that out.
That's interesting. It surprised me that tires were the most expensive and that wheels were third most expensive--together more than twice as much as the bike itself.

It's definitely worthwhile shopping around for good deals on the round parts!
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Old 06-28-14, 05:01 AM   #36
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That's interesting. It surprised me that tires were the most expensive and that wheels were third most expensive--together more than twice as much as the bike itself.

It's definitely worthwhile shopping around for good deals on the round parts!
He is running top shelf tires, kind of like buying performance tires for a car. One of the guys hat work has a Nissan 350Z his tires are in the $600 a piece range, my Nissan I can get all four for that price.

I did a quick check on the last set of Schwalbe tires I purchased and they were just over $100 for the pair. I full expect them to last for over 10,000 miles of riding which would be roughly two years based on my previous car free living. Given my current mileage those tires may just last me until I retire in 10 years

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Old 07-01-14, 11:43 AM   #37
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I also have no precise idea how much I spend on bikes, so this is just a rough guess. I'm not including the purchase costs of the bikes themselves, or the pedals, saddles, lights, panniers, backpack, lock, or tools -- mainly because I have no idea how to break that down on an annual basis, but also because I tend to buy premium quality stuff so I spend a lot more than is strictly necessary. I expect all these things, with the exception of lights and saddles, to last at least as long as I do.

Bike maintenance (tires, chain lube, misc. parts, labor): $300/year
Train and bus fares (reloadable RFID card): $800/year
Never having to look for parking: Priceless
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Old 07-19-14, 11:16 AM   #38
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You're overthinking this. It's a simple question: How much do you spend on transportation that doesn't involve a car? Not what effects did being carfree have on your quality of life. For me, the answer when I was carfree is:

$50 for bikes (a "new" used bike every three or four years)
$200 for bike parts and service
$2340 interurban bus (13 round trips of 400 miles to visit ailing parents)
$60 taxis
$300 bus

That's a total of $2,950 per year, for well over 10,000 miles of travel.
It's hard to beat cycling, but those bus trips are really, really expensive. I pay ~$1000+/year (ins+gas+maintenance) to drive ~7k miles, my car was $5500, which would be amortized over four years given how much you're paying for bus fare (and at that point the car should still be worth ~$3500).
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Old 07-20-14, 12:55 AM   #39
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It's hard to beat cycling, but those bus trips are really, really expensive. I pay ~$1000+/year (ins+gas+maintenance) to drive ~7k miles, my car was $5500, which would be amortized over four years given how much you're paying for bus fare (and at that point the car should still be worth ~$3500).
You might want to recheck those figures. Given gas cost of $3.50 and 25 mpg--just the gas to drive 7,000 miles would cost $980. Did you get the insurance and maintenance for $20 a year?
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Old 07-20-14, 01:45 AM   #40
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If I drove my truck around everywhere, I'd probably get 25mpg, or less. Fortunately, I get ~65mpg in my 2000 Honda Insight (got it for $5000 plus tax with ~80k miles), which is ~$380/year at $3.50/gallon and 7000 miles. Insurance is ~$600/year, but I have a $0 comprehensive and $1000 collision deductible as well as the maximum for liability insurance (I think $500k/$500k). I imagine most people wouldn't pay as much (I live in southern California), of have as much liability insurance. Maintenance is ~$100/year. Not that there's anything wrong with public transit. In certain places (BART in the Bay Area), you can't beat it. But in other situations it can be kind of pricey compared to a fuel efficient/reliable car.
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Old 07-20-14, 02:22 AM   #41
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If I drove my truck around everywhere, I'd probably get 25mpg, or less. Fortunately, I get ~65mpg in my 2000 Honda Insight (got it for $5000 plus tax with ~80k miles), which is ~$380/year at $3.50/gallon and 7000 miles. Insurance is ~$600/year, but I have a $0 comprehensive and $1000 collision deductible as well as the maximum for liability insurance (I think $500k/$500k). I imagine most people wouldn't pay as much (I live in southern California), of have as much liability insurance. Maintenance is ~$100/year. Not that there's anything wrong with public transit. In certain places (BART in the Bay Area), you can't beat it. But in other situations it can be kind of pricey compared to a fuel efficient/reliable car.
What method did you use to calculate the mileage? 65 mpg sounds kinda high, especially for a 14 year old vehicle. Car & Driver said they only got 50 mpg when it was brand new.

And with $380 for gas and $600 for insurance, that leaves only $20 a year for all your other car expenses like repairs. oil and other fluids, registration fees, parking, inspections and so forth. I guess that's possible....

Anyway, my bus costs that I liste in an earlier post were pretty high because I was making monthly trips to another city 200 miles away. City bus passes here are $61/month for unlimited travel.
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Old 07-20-14, 09:51 AM   #42
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I'm a car light bike commuter. I don't track my cycling costs, although I did a few years ago. I think it was three or four hundred dollars a year, including amortized bike purchases, but I bike to work about 140 days a year, and the next cheapest option, public transit, costs over five dollars a day, and a monthly parking pass at work is over one hundred dollars per month, not to mention gas, etc., so on a head to head commuting cost comparison, cycling easily wins.

Plus I haven't bought a bike since around 2007, so my average annual costs are probably lower.

Driving to work is slightly faster, but if I drove I would have to put the saved time towards exercising, and biking is my preferred exercise

Anyway if I drove it would leave my wife stranded unless we got another car.

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Old 07-20-14, 10:35 AM   #43
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Don't forget calories. My commute is around 500 calories daily according to Strava and that seems about accurate to me. 500 calories is around 80 cents to $1, so over a year my junk food fuel bill comes to $180-$200.
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Old 07-20-14, 10:47 AM   #44
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I went from living outside the city where I worked and driving 60 000 km/year to living in the city, not working, foregoing the car and using a bike year-round for 99% of my transportation. I don't use public transportation (can't stand the crowds). When I absolutely need a car (7-8 times a year) I rent one from a car pool service we have here in Québec : Communauto.

INITIAL COSTS
Bike: 3 000 $
Clothing: 1 000 $

YEARLY COSTS
Bike maintenance: 500 $
Clothing: 200$
Car pool: 900 $

FWIW, I kept detailed records on my car expenses at the time and they came to 1130 $/month (car, maintenance, insurance, fuel). If I were still working, my bike expenses would be the same as I would commute on the bike because I now live in the city.

So with the huge savings I made from not having a car, I bought a hugely expensive road bike -- which still costs less than a third of what my car cost.
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Old 07-20-14, 12:47 PM   #45
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What method did you use to calculate the mileage? 65 mpg sounds kinda high, especially for a 14 year old vehicle. Car & Driver said they only got 50 mpg when it was brand new.

And with $380 for gas and $600 for insurance, that leaves only $20 a year for all your other car expenses like repairs. oil and other fluids, registration fees, parking, inspections and so forth. I guess that's possible....

Anyway, my bus costs that I liste in an earlier post were pretty high because I was making monthly trips to another city 200 miles away. City bus passes here are $61/month for unlimited travel.
Age has no bearing on mileage unless the car falls into disrepair. I've calculated milage by miles on the odo divided by gallons pumped it. The onboard computer that shows mileage is pretty accurately too, within +/- 1-2mpg high/low, so I generally use that now.

I'm off by ~$100/year because I pay more for insurance than most (there are a lot of really expensive cars in Orange County ), but at the same time if I had the bare minimum for insurance, it would only cost ~$200/year. Car and Driver is notorious for driving the crap out of most cars, especially hybrids (I don't think they've gotten above 50mpg in any car). They still recorded ~70mpg@65mph when they got their foot out of it. More if you draft, but there's no need really.

How We Won the Insight Fuel-Economy Challenge. Without Cheating. Much - Road Test - Car Reviews - Car and Driver

Urban public transit is usually pretty good, but like you pointed out, extraurban travel can be very expensive. Even in southern California, operating my car for my ~30 mile round trip commute is only a few hundred dollars more per year than taking the bus, and a lot more flexible. I generally spend ~45min-1hr30min driving every day, but if I took the bus it would be closer to 5 hours/day.

In other cities with more tolls/parking costs and better developed and more efficient public transit systems, like BART in the Bay area, there would be no reason for me to drive, but public transit in socal, outside of maybe LA, sucks. What I really need to do is finally cobble together an EV bike and a trailer, since that would cover most of my needs and be far less expensive than even the bus.

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Old 07-21-14, 12:43 AM   #46
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Age has no bearing on mileage unless the car falls into disrepair. I've calculated milage by miles on the odo divided by gallons pumped it. The onboard computer that shows mileage is pretty accurately too, within +/- 1-2mpg high/low, so I generally use that now.

I'm off by ~$100/year because I pay more for insurance than most (there are a lot of really expensive cars in Orange County ), but at the same time if I had the bare minimum for insurance, it would only cost ~$200/year. Car and Driver is notorious for driving the crap out of most cars, especially hybrids (I don't think they've gotten above 50mpg in any car). They still recorded ~70mpg@65mph when they got their foot out of it. More if you draft, but there's no need really.

How We Won the Insight Fuel-Economy Challenge. Without Cheating. Much - Road Test - Car Reviews - Car and Driver

Urban public transit is usually pretty good, but like you pointed out, extraurban travel can be very expensive. Even in southern California, operating my car for my ~30 mile round trip commute is only a few hundred dollars more per year than taking the bus, and a lot more flexible. I generally spend ~45min-1hr30min driving every day, but if I took the bus it would be closer to 5 hours/day.

In other cities with more tolls/parking costs and better developed and more efficient public transit systems, like BART in the Bay area, there would be no reason for me to drive, but public transit in socal, outside of maybe LA, sucks. What I really need to do is finally cobble together an EV bike and a trailer, since that would cover most of my needs and be far less expensive than even the bus.
I'm not terribly interested in the details of your car expenses. I only asked because I was a little skeptical of the $1000 figure you reported.

What are your bike costs? Almost everybody says bike commuting is cheaper than either cars or transit, as cooker mentioned above. Commuting 15 miles by bike might take a little more time than driving, but not a lot more time (assuming your circumstances are typical). And it's certainly time well spent if you love riding. Have you ever considered bike commuting?
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Old 07-21-14, 07:47 AM   #47
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What a joke - they won a mileage prize by drafting a Ford Excursion, but they didn't include the Excursion's gas.
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Old 07-21-14, 09:06 AM   #48
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Best laugh I've had in a couple days!
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Old 07-21-14, 09:59 AM   #49
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Doesn't being car-free almost always bring about a net savings?
Bicycle expenses shouldn't be compared with the savings of giving up owning and operating a car. Many bicycle suppliers would love to base their prices on the idea that the bicycle is a primary mode of transportation vs. being 'just a hobby device,' but really pricing should be based on costs.

Expecting people to pay $1000s for a bike because they use them for primary transportation is exploitative. Bicycles are much simpler machines than motor-vehicles. Too many bike shops refuse to sell simple, essential parts because they don't think people should be able to maintain a bike for practically nothing, even though that is entirely possible.

It is sad when business interests drive up the cost of cycling when it is such a great method for people to save money and spend income on other things, or just save it.
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Old 07-21-14, 10:58 AM   #50
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Bicycle expenses shouldn't be compared with the savings of giving up owning and operating a car. Many bicycle suppliers would love to base their prices on the idea that the bicycle is a primary mode of transportation vs. being 'just a hobby device,' but really pricing should be based on costs.
Much as I sympathize with the desire to get people on bikes inexpensively, I can see it the other way too - if there are people willing to pay $1000+ for a commuter bike (and there are, apparently), why should a shop or manufacturer price their goods below what the market will bear? The higher-than-it-could-be prices on new bikes aren't all bad if they keep shops in business and mechanics employed.

I'm jaded because I have experience playing both sides of the field, I run a small shop/sell used bikes out of my garage (just in my spare time, I have a regular job too) and it's a frustrating endeavor because the low prices of used bikes make it challenging to turn a profit that's even remotely commensurate for the labor hours invested. Obviously the profit margins are bigger on new bikes and high-volume sales, but still, bikes are cheap only when labor is cheap - why do you think pretty much everything made for bikes these days comes from China or Taiwan? As both a laborer, and someone who would also like to bring my non-wrenching skills to the bike industry someday, I take it as a good sign if people are willing to plunk down more money for bicycles.
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